A Chester high school is seeking parents’ views on proposals to install CCTV cameras within student toilets.
Upton High School says cameras would be directed away from urinals and unable to see inside cubicles.
Firm reassurances have been given around safeguards to protect privacy and dignity.
The school has written to parents as part of a consultation that has also involved the students and insists the proposal has not arisen as a direct result of any one incident.
Acting headteacher Jon Arnull told The Chronicle: "There has not been one specific incident actually; this suggestion is simply to improve students’ well-being – to make them feel as safe as they can.
"Unfortunately we cannot afford to install modern, airy, open-plan toilets that are found in newer schools (no urinals, cubicles only and large communal wash basin areas etc). Our toilets are enclosed. Cameras are becoming more affordable so we are able to upgrade them."
Students have told The Chronicle anonymously the school does not have a problem with drugs but there have been incidents of vandalism. The school accepts the measure is ‘contentious’ but all students who spoke to The Chronicle were in favour.
The idea of putting cameras into the toilets comes after the school upgraded its entire CCTV system in recent weeks.
Mr Arnull wrote in a letter to parents: “Whilst toilets (inside and out) are well patrolled by staff, teachers cannot be continuously present. In order to ensure students feel as safe as possible, we are seeking parents’ views on putting cameras in the students’ toilets.
“As you can appreciate, this is a potentially contentious issue. The Student Council has discussed the issue and is supportive of the proposal. This has also been raised in assemblies and, to allay fears of breach of privacy, images of what the cameras would see have been shown.
“You will see that the intention is to direct cameras away from the urinals and they would also be unable to see inside cubicles, but they would show who enters the cubicles. They would also show the entrances and circulation areas within the toilets, including the sinks.
“It is important to state that these cameras would not be continuously monitored unless we were suspicious that wrong doing was about to place. Furthermore, that the senior member of staff who needed to see the live pictures would inform a colleague that this was about to happen. For events that have already taken place, footage would be retrieved in the usual way to ensure the investigation was effective.
“Whilst we know that other schools have placed cameras in toilets, we have nonetheless taken advice on our proposal; we have been advised that the proposal is acceptable. However, due to the sensitive nature of the issue, we would also like to hear your views. We have listened carefully to students and we think this proposal would help young people feel more secure in the toilet areas, especially younger students.
“We very much welcome your thoughts on this issue: please email email@example.com by 24 November 2017 with your views.”